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Stated Clerk's Column

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Written by Gradye Parsons

Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.

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February 2, 2014

February 2014 - Contemplating space and the local congregation

Cold creates community. I drive past a bus stop every day. It is where two routes cross so there are usually several people gathered. Normally they are pretty good about respecting each other’s space. The polar vortex has changed that. They have packed themselves into the little bus shelter like sardines for warmth and to avoid the wind.

You could probably make the same case for warm weather that sends us to the beach in droves, for opening day in baseball, and for fall foliage drives that become bumper-to-bumper. There is common interest like a stream heading in one direction, and before you know it the stream has created all kinds of communities of floating things.

In the Reformed language we talk about being called into community. A call comes from the Spirit speaking to us and through others. A call, whose headwaters started in the Garden. The call gathers collections of women, men, babies and the forever young on a journey of discovery about faith. This is the called community, stumbling, running and occasionally leaping toward God’s hopes for them.

As I travel across the church I hear lots of conversation about who is the community that is a local congregation. Is it the official members? Is it the baptized? Or is it something bigger than that? Could it include the children in the tutoring program? What about those gathered around the tables eating sandwiches and soup? Are the community garden folk in our community?

This year we have asked in our clerky annual report to try to estimate how many people your congregation serves beyond its membership. I think it will be a very interesting number and will help us look at ourselves in a very different mirror. I urge you to have conversations about the answer. You just might find that your congregation’s space is more packed than you thought.

Stay warm and stay together.

Tags: congregation, gradye parsons, monthly column, stated clerk